You know what I hate? Having to leave a beautiful beach in Costa Rica to get back to my hotel so I can change my tampon because there are no public washrooms available. You know what else I hate? Spending my time wandering around Venice worried that my leaking tampon isn’t going to hold until I find my way out of the winding alleyways. You get the idea. When you’re travelling, it sucks having your period. You are almost never near a restroom when you need one and your period is the last thing you want to think about when you are trying to enjoy your trip.
I got into reusable menstrual products because of their convenience for travel, and I haven’t regretted the switch at all. Not only do I love the convenience, but I love that I am doing less damage to the environment.
Benefits of Menstrual Cups & Reusable Pads
Less Waste The packaging alone for feminine hygiene products, not to mention the products themselves, creates a ton of waste. The average woman will use 11,000 – 16,000 tampons or pads in her lifetime! That’s a lot of waste going into our landfills – estimates come in at 20 billion products and packaging in North America each year! Once these products are in the landfill, they can take hundreds of years to decompose. Plastic packaging increases this environmental damage. Oh, and there is also the environmental damage that comes with making these products in the first place.
Convenience There’s nothing worse than finding yourself on a jungle hike or deserted beach only to realise your tampon is leaking. Finding a public bathroom is a hassle at best. At worst, you will find yourself returning to your hotel just to use the bathroom, all the while wondering if the leak is becoming visible. Beyond the convenience of every day travel, menstrual cups can be worn for 12 hours so are also great for sleeping through the night and camping, where restrooms aren’t always easy to find.
Cost The up-front cost of investing in re-usable products is nothing to bat an eye at, but consider the long-term costs. A tampon costs about $0.19, while a pad and a pantyliner each cost the same. Think about how many of these you use during a typical cycle and add it up. I have a pretty light flow and will use about 9 tampons and 10 pantyliners each month. That adds up to $3.61 each month. That might not seem like much, but in just over two years, it already adds up to $100. If you have a more average flow, you might use 25 tampons and 10 pantyliners each month. Now your cost has almost doubled to $6.65 each month (that’s nearly $80 a year if you don’t have a calculator handy). You will easily make back your investment in a menstrual cup and a few re-usable pantyliners.
Health Do you know what’s in your tampons? I didn’t until I did some research. Fragrance is an obvious one, but let’s assume you are using unscented products. Tampons can also contain dioxin and pesticides from non-organic cotton. Obviously, the FDA says the amounts found in tampons are safe and perhaps they are. Do your own research on what is going into your body and decide for yourself what you are comfortable with.
Make the World a Better Place Many companies in the reusable feminine hygiene market also contribute to communities. Some have programs that support local shelters and low-income groups. Others make menstrual products available to women in developing countries. Get to know the company you are buying from and see what they are doing to help make the world a better place.
Tips for Using Menstrual Cups & Reusable Pads
Carry an Extra You may not want to shell out the cash for an extra menstrual cup and I’d say it’s not necessary. However, you will want at least a couple of pads and liners so you can switch things up while you clean and dry the used ones. Decide how many you need of each based on your flow and how often you expect to change your pad/pantyliner.
Put Some Paper Towel in Your Purse Paper towel is compostable and will allow you to wrap a used pad or liner so you can keep your purse clean if you need to change before you get back to your accommodation. I haven’t tried it yet, but I would say you could also use a beeswax wrap. These are intended to keep food fresh, but their design keeps moisture contained and are easy to wash.
Keep it Looking New Rinsing products with cold water before washing with hot water will prevent stains from setting. Make your menstrual cup last longer by not immersing it in boiling water. Wash menstrual cups with mild soap and vinegar to prevent damage or lingering chemicals from harsher detergents.
Try Different Things Not all products come with handy tips to make inserting and removing a menstrual cup easier. Try different positions – if sitting on the toilet doesn’t work for you, try squatting. Relaxation is definitely key to the insertion process. There are at least six different ways to fold a menstrual cup. The most obvious way of folding it in half twice does not work for me at all. To ease removal, use those pelvic floor muscles! Make small contractions as if you are having a bowel movement or very tiny baby. This will help push the cup down making it easier to grab.
Where to Buy
There are several companies that sell reusable feminine hygiene products. Seriously, there are a lot. You can also find reusable pads at craft fairs and online markets. I’ve listed a few brands here and provided my personal reviews on products I have tried.
Diva Cup I first tried the Diva Cup on the lightest day of my cycle so that I wouldn’t have to fuss with it while making a huge mess. Surprisingly, I found the insertion and removal both fairly easy, though removal caused me some discomfort and possible minor tearing. This discomfort was gone by the next month. Once it was in, I could hardly even tell it was there. While I didn’t necessarily need the cup on this day, I did still appreciate that there was less odour from wearing it.
For the real test, I used the Diva Cup on the first day of my next cycle – a medium-heavy flow day. After about 7 hours and an intense yoga class, I decided to remove it to see how it was doing. 7 hours is almost twice as long as I can wear a tampon on a day like this, but my Diva Cup wasn’t even half full!
I have no issues wearing my Diva Cup overnight or all day when travelling and only experience minor leaking, usually on a heavy flow day when I’m going #2 on the toilet😊 I have worn my cup paddle boarding in Hawaii and wandering the streets of Havana without any problems. I do prefer to wear a pantyliner, just in case, but have also been fine in my bikini all day.
Rebel Kate I tried the small menstrual cup provided by Rebel Kate on day 2 of my cycle (the heaviest day). Their small cup is about 1/3 smaller than a small Diva Cup. I liked that the silicone was thinner and more pliable as my vaginal wall was still mildly sore in the morning. It was easier to insert and remove, but I experienced some leaking about an hour after wearing it. I tried again with the larger cup, but couldn’t get it to sit properly and ended up never using it again.
Glad Rags I was pretty unsure how I would feel wearing a cloth pantyliner. I mean, that’s what our grandmas wore, right? But I was so happy to discover a cloth pantyliner was not only comfortable, the cotton actually made it even more comfortable than a disposable liner. It is thicker of course, but I didn’t ever find this to be a nuisance, even in my yoga pants.
Ruby Cup I never got around to trying this product only because I was happy with my Diva Cup and had no need to spend money on another product. However, Ruby Cup looks very similar in design to the Diva Cup, so I would expect great results here too. They also donate a cup to a woman in need for every cup purchased.
Thinx I haven’t tried these period underwear yet myself, but a friend of mine who has a very heavy flow uses them and swears by them. Laura wants to buy some of these to try herself as she doesn’t like the menstrual cup. They also have a great program where they seek to empower women around the world by providing safe education spaces. (Get $10 off your first order if you use this link).
Remember, every product and every body is different. What works for me, may not be best for you. If one brand of cup doesn’t work for you, be willing to try something else. Read reviews and find out what people have to say. There are some great FAQ’s here to get you started on your reusable period product journey😊
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